FOREIGN MINISTER JOHN MANLEY CAUGHT IN A COVER-UP OF TALISMAN’S COMPLICITY IN SUDAN ATROCITIES
Sooner or later John Manley’s culpable refusal to accept honestly the realities of Talisman Energy’s presence in Sudan was bound to catch up with him. And now it has. Despite claiming that a Ministry report on helicopter gunship use of Talisman’s facilities was edited with an eye to “delet[ing] passages that could jeopardize the lives of Canadians working in the Sudan,” Mr. Manley must now confront the fact that the key deleted passages pointed only, and clearly, to relentless helicopter gunship attacks on civilians. These attacks have made constant use of Talisman’s airstrip at Unity Field in southern Sudan.
Eric Reeves [May 4, 2001]
Smith College firstname.lastname@example.org
Northampton, MA 01063
On Tuesday of this week, The Globe & Mail reported Mr. Manley’s press secretary, Sanjeev Chowdhury, as declaring:
“the government has not suppressed information, but merely removed detailed information on individuals working in Sudan from documents that were released under Access to Information. We deleted passages that could jeopardize the lives of Canadians working in the Sudan.”
[May 1, 2001]
But this is a lie—a clear, deliberate lie, designed to obscure the real nature of Talisman Energy’s complicity in deadly Hind helicopter gunship attacks on innocent Sudanese civilians. And Mr. Manley has reiterated this lie in the Question Period in Parliament today.
We need only compare what the Ministry released in edited form and what has today been obtained from confidential sources with access to the unedited form of the report (and confirmed in Parliament by MP Svend Robinson’s question to Mr. Manley).
Here is the relevant portion of what the Ministry released—in highly edited form—as a response to an Access to Information request:
[From a February 27, 2001 report to the Canadian Foreign Ministry by Nicholas Coghlan, Khartoum-based political officer for Canada. Coghlan reports on his findings from a trip in late February of this year to Talisman Energy’s concession areas]:
“ The G[overnment O[f] S[udan] is meanwhile taking the Tamur attack seriously.
[deletion of several lines]
Talisman have indicated to the GOS their unease at this situation and have sought assurances that he Hinds’ presence is purely defensive.”
But here is the entire passage, with absolutely no mention of Canadian citizens, simply unnamed and uncharacterized “interlocutors”; nothing not already common knowledge concerning the whereabouts of Canadians in Sudan could possibly be gleaned from the whited out section:
“15. The GOS is meanwhile taking the Tamur attack seriously. For the past month there have been two Hind gunships stationed at Unity Field, and interlocutors told me they had been flying sorties almost every day, taking on large amounts of ammunition, ‘and unloading none…’. There is a third Hind at Rubkona, apparently out of action, having taken excessive dust into its intake. By some accounts, this represents half of the GOS’s entire fleet of combat helicopters. Talisman have indicated to the GOS their unease at this situation and have sought assurances that the Hinds’ presence is purely defensive.”
Hind helicopter gunships flying continual missions (“almost every day”), and “taking on large amounts of ammunition, ‘and unloading none,'” are clearly not engaged in defensive operations: these are the unmistakable hallmarks of offensive military missions. Since the time frame (January/February 2001) corresponds with known helicopter gunship attacks on civilians, attacks that have both preceded and followed this time frame, there is only one conclusion to be reached. Talisman facilities are directly implicated in ongoing attacks on Sudanese civilians as part of the Khartoum regime’s campaign of scorched-earth warfare. This campaign is designed to provide security for the oil concession areas of Talisman Energy, a Canadian corporation.
Here it is critical to note how closely the information suppressed by Mr. Manley comports with the very recent report of Georgette Gagnon, a member of the Harker Assessment Mission (which also found “incontrovertible” evidence that Talisman facilities were being used for helicopter gunship attacks on civilians). Ms. Gagnon has just returned from a human rights assessment mission to the Talisman concession areas:
“‘Defecting soldiers from the government of Sudan army base in Heglig and victims of gunship attacks testified to us that gunships fly regular sorties from Heglig (the oil project’s base) to attack civilian settlements in a continuing campaign to clear and secure territory for oil development,’ [Ms. Gagnon] said.” [Reuters, May 1, 2001]
Mr. Manley, through his press secretary, has lied to the Canadian people about the editing of a crucial document released in response to a lawful request under the Access to Information Act. And he has lied in a way that was clearly designed to minimize Canadian awareness of Canadian corporate complicity in ongoing atrocities in Sudan. This makes Mr. Manley himself complicit in those atrocities.
Canadians, indeed, citizens of all countries should be outraged at this officially sanctioned prevarication about a matter of the utmost moral urgency.